The ABC's of Bassoon:
Bassoon for Beginners
The process of learning bassoon for beginners is a lot like how we learn to read. When we learn to read and write, we first learn the letters of the alphabet. We are just beginners. We learn our ABC's. Once we have mastered these letters, we combine them into meaningful words and sentences.
Poets and other writers combine letters and words into beautiful expressions of the soul. You can do this with music, too.
But, hold on! First things first.
The bassoon has its own ABC's. As a beginner, you must learn these first. These basics, or fundamentals, are the building blocks you'll use to create beautiful, meaningful music.
Here are the basic, essential skills that you need to play the bassoon…a short "primer" of sorts on bassoon for beginners. Practice good fundamentals every day and you're well on your way to being a better bassoonist!
You will, of course, need to have these items to play and practice the bassoon:
See this Equipment Guide for Beginners and Bassoon Assembly for more details.(Links coming soon!)
- instrument, in good playing condition
- bassoon bocal (it should come with the bassoon, but I put it here separately just in case)
- bassoon reeds
- bassoon seat strap
- small soaking cup for reed water
- music stand
- method book or other book on bassoon for beginners
Hand Position and Posture
Now that you have all your equipment, it is so important for you to hold it correctly! You are going to be playing this instrument for hours. If you are holding the bassoon incorrectly or sitting with poor posture, playing the bassoon will start to hurt and might lead to a more serious injury. It's important for beginner bassoonists to catch and correct any bad habits before injury occurs. We don't want it to hurt, we want it to be fun!
For step-by-step instructions on how to hold the bassoon, click on Bassoon Posture.Here is a standard Bassoon Fingering Chart.(link coming soon!)
Beginner Bassoon Lessons
"Embouchure" is just a fancy word to describe the correct position of the mouth, cheeks, and lips for playing a wind (or brass) instrument. Every instrument requires a different type of embouchure to get the best sound. This is because every instrument has an uniquely shaped reed and/or mouthpiece. Therefore the way you will form the embouchure will be different for each instrument.
The embouchure for the bassoon is kind of like the spokes of a bicycle wheel. As you hold the bassoon reed in your mouth, imagine the muscles of your lips holding onto the reed as though they are bicycle spokes going in to the center of the wheel. Instead of the center of a wheel, though, you have the muscles of the lips pushing into the reed, evenly on all sides.
It's also important for the inside of the mouth, or "oral cavity," to have a shape, too. It should be an "open" shape, formed by slightly dropping the jaw. The easiest way to do this is to pretend you are yawning with your mouth closed. You can see me explain all this in my youtube video on bassoon embouchure for beginners here.
Note: Some beginners on bassoon switch to the instrument from another woodwind or other instrument, and bring over to the bassoon some unhelpful habits:
- They "bite" on the reed, putting too much pressure from the top and bottom lips
- They pull the corners of their mouths far back, instead of forward in a rounded "bicycle spoke" shape
It is recommended to catch these habits early in beginner bassoonists so that a proper embouchure can be established.
Last, but not least: Breathing.
Breathing is probably the most important aspect of playing any woodwind instrument. Think about it, the word "woodwind" alludes to the essential element of what makes the sound of our instruments - wind.
Breathing for beginners, though, doesn't come naturally. Beginner bassoon students often do not use enough air support to get a good sound out of the bassoon. If we use the same amount of air for bassoon that we do normally breathing, it will never be enough!
It takes special practice to work on properly breathing for bassoon. Here are some exercises to develop better breathing technique.(link coming soon!)
A final note on bassoon for beginners: this may seem like a lot, but don't get overwhelmed! Work a little each day on each of these essentials. Your practice sessions can become too dull if all you're working on all the time are fundamentals. See my Bassoon Music Pages for ideas for fun music to play while you work on the basics of bassoon for beginners.
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